Shelf Talk

Intel's smart toys score a second life with Prime
April 1, 2002

Intel’s smart toys score a second life with Prime

Prime Entertainment has rescued Intel’s interactive toy line from the scrap heap. The Atlanta, Georgia-based toyco has struck a licensing deal with Intel for the rights to produce and distribute four items belonging to the chip manufacturer’s Intel Play line of smart toys.

The agreement includes the Digital Movie Creator (a video camera complete with editing software that allows kids to create their own films), the QX3 Computer Microscope (with which kids can transmit microscopic images to their computer for digital manipulation using animation and special effects software), digital camera Me2Cam and the Sound Morpher (a device that allows kids to record and manipulate audio).

Intel made a huge splash with its interactive toys in the late ’90s, helping to trigger an onslaught of high-priced, PC-enabled toys for kids. In fact, the Digital Movie Camera and QX3 Computer Microscope snared awards from Children’s Software Review and Popular Science, respectively. But faced with declining revenues and a tech sector meltdown, Intel made the decision last fall to nix its consumer products division, which housed its toy operations–meaning the smart toys’ days were numbered.

For Prime, which launched in January to specialize in interactive toys for kids, the Intel line will form the foundation of its initial fall 2002 product offering. Prime will market the four Intel toys under the brand Digital Blue, as well as using Intel technology to create new toys that will function with PCs. The company will also incorporate kids entertainment licenses into the products, with the expectation of having one such deal in place by the fall. ‘The Digital Movie Creator, in particular, provides a great opportunity for kids to create their own movies using licensed characters from TV and films,’ enthuses Tim Hall, Prime’s president and founder.

Despite the toy industry’s recent move away from high-priced, high-tech playthings (as was evidenced at this year’s Toy Fair), Hall, who spent time in executive positions at both Cartoon Network and Hasbro before forming Prime, believes the cool allure of Intel’s toys will still play with kids. ‘We’re still seeing double-digit growth in the video game marketplace,’ says Hall. ‘Today’s kids expect a PS2-level experience from their toys, and we’re going to bring that experience to them.’

Gund makes diamonds a newborn’s best friend

Along with the proverbial silver spoon, well-heeled parents will soon have the option of purchasing a variety of licensed jewelry for their newborn infants. Through its licensing agent The Wildflower Group, plush vendor Gund has tapped New York-based diamond distributor Jewelry Brands Group to create various jewelry items featuring babyGUND characters or the babyGUND name for infants and new moms.

‘Besides Tiffany’s, there really aren’t any brands associated with jewelry. So to take babyGUND, which is known for its high-end gift value, and marry it to jewelry makes a lot of sense,’ says Mike Carlisle, a partner at The Wildflower Group.

While no one tracks revenues for the newborn jewelry category, sales of infant-targeted items like sterling silver porringers and rattles have been on the rise, indicating that the sector is enjoying a growth spurt, says Jennifer Heebner, senior associate editor at jewelry industry trade publication Jewelers Circular Keystone.

Though Jewelry Brands Group was still submitting product ideas to Gund for approval at press time, Wildflower’s Carlisle says the company will create a range of items including diamond-studded pins, pendants, bracelets, earrings, silver rattles, booties and banks. With the SKUs sporting a hefty price range of between US$50 and US$4,000, the babyGUND jewelry will be limited to mid- and upper-tier department, toy and gift retailers, as well as independent jewelry stores–where Carlisle expects to generate the bulk of sales. Look for babyGUND jewelry to sparkle in stores this September.

Toymax dusts off Atari games

The ’80s toy revival continues to chug along unabated, with Atari being the latest property to come back from the junk bond decade. Toymax’s Atari 10-in-1 TV Games is a retro-style stand-alone controller that contains 10 classic games, including Space Invaders, Asteroids and Centipede. The cartridge-less portable system (US$19.99) runs on four AA batteries and plugs directly into the inputs of most TVs and VCRs, allowing kids the opportunity to sample hours of old-school gaming in all of its pixilated, 2-D splendor. Toymax, which released a similar system featuring Activision games last fall, plans to launch the Atari 10-in-1 TV Games in September.

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